Ex-Marine Department assistant director So Ping-chi has been given permission to proceed with appealing his conviction over his involvement in the Lamma ferry tragedy.

39 people were killed on October 1, 2012, when a passenger ferry and a Hongkong Electric Company-owned vessel collided off Yung Shue Wan. The Hongkong Electric vessel was carrying staff members to watch the National Day fireworks show.

So, who ordered staff members to ignore a new law on the number of life jackets vessels must carry, was convicted of misconduct in public office last year. He was given a 16-month sentence, but was granted bail pending appeal.

File photo: In-Media.

The captains of Hongkong Electric’s Lamma IV and Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry’s Sea Smooth were respectively sentenced to nine months and eight years in jail.

See also: In Pictures: Mourners remember victims of Lamma ferry tragedy, five years on

On Wednesday, the Court of Appeal granted So permission to go forward with his appeal. He is allowed to leave Hong Kong during his appeal and his bail was increased to HK$50,000 from HK$10,000.

The court will deal with the case after the appellant amends his grounds of appeal, RTHK reported.

At a memorial this year commemorating the tragedy. Photo: Fung Ka-keung.

Senior Counsel Daniel Marash, acting for the appellant, said that the first instance judge failed to consider So’s intent, the gravity of the consequences and his mentality when making the order.

As So’s orders complied with the old law regarding lifejackets, it cannot be said that his behaviour was unreasonable, he argued.

Last year, the Ombudsman said the Marine Department’s “lax” approach to rectifying problems after maritime incidents could put safety at risk.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.